The New York Jets didn’t make the playoffs last year, but they were still one of the most surprising teams in football. A team that many picked to finish, say, 4-12 actually went 8-8 and had an outside shot at the postseason.

This season, the Jets need second-year quarterback Geno Smith to improve on his up-and-down play as a rookie – and Smith, to his credit, looked steady in limited action against the Colts on Thursday. He went 4-of-6 for 33 yards and had one rush for 10 yards in a 13-10 Jets win.

While the Jets’ overall rushing totals weren’t pretty – 37 carries for 101 yards (2.7 yards per carry) – Alex Green and Daryl Richardson were a little more effective, combining for 16 carries for 56 yards (3.5 yards per carry).

“Well, typical first preseason game: little bit of rust,” former Jets defensive lineman and current SportsNet New York analyst Joe Klecko said on The Morning Show. “They ran the ball pretty well, but of course it looked like Indianapolis was expecting that. As Geno walked up the line to throw out his first audible, I think they stacked the line even more. But they looked good. They didn’t look disoriented. They looked very clam. I think the offensive line looked good.”

The Jets will need stellar play from that unit this season, both to give Smith time to throw and also to open up holes for Rex Ryan’s ground-and-pound offense, which helped the Jets win three of four to end the regular season.

While Smith certainly endured growing pains as a rookie – his 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions were hardly inspiring – Klecko believes the West Virginia product will be much better this season.

“I believe Geno Smith (will start at quarterback) without a doubt – without a doubt,” Klecko said. “(But) as you go across the league – Indianapolis was the perfect example last night, having (Matt) Hasselbeck – the second-string quarterback is so valuable today in the NFL. To get a guy like Michael Vick, you’re actually pretty lucky.”

Indeed, Vick, 34, provides a veteran presence in the locker room and can run the offense exactly as Marty Mornhinweg desires. Vick completed three passes for 17 yards and ran three times for 19 yards on Thursday.

But make no mistake: Smith is both the present and the future.

“I had a long talk Monday with Phil Simms – and I think that’s a pretty good analyst for quarterbacks,” Klecko said. “And he goes, listen, ‘It’s pretty good when a guy can really read all the defenses and have the understanding of the NFL.’ Now, Geno’s going to get that eventually because he’s been taught by a pretty good coach, but he can make the throws. That seam pass down the middle of the field, the outs – Geno can make those throws.”

“As you listen to him talk in all his interviews,” Klecko continued, “he has a lot of confidence, and they’re building that confidence in him. And it’s not the confidence you get from a rookie that comes in and goes ‘Yeah, I’m going to tear up the league. He’s confident (because the coaches) have made him feel he’s going to be able to do this for them.”

So, what’s the Jets’ prognosis for 2014?

“I believe that the defense is going to carry the team again,” Klecko said. “I believe the front of that defense is absolutely tremendous. I think the Jets could be a playoff team. There’s no doubt in my mind. (After that), it (all depends on) injury and luck, I believe.”


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